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Proposed New State Legislation to Further Protect the Undocumented Worker

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Sacramento, CA:As the Trump Administration continues to target immigrants, a State bill recently introduced in the California legislature is aimed at further strengthening the rights of the undocumented worker, in a state that values their contribution to the local economy.

That Bill is AB 450, otherwise known as the Immigration Worker Protection Act. The Bill is designed not so much to limit the reach of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but rather to further strengthen protections for both the undocumented worker and their employers.

If, and when AB 450 passes the updated protections will be useful for any undocumented worker feeling the heat of intimidation. For anyone considering an undocumented worker lawsuit, the forthcoming protections can only deepen the resolve of the would-be plaintiff.

California has a lot at stake here, given the impact the undocumented worker has on the State economy. According to New America Media (07/13/17) one, in ten of all workers in the State are undocumented. The snapshot is even more compelling when things are broken down by industry. For example, the undocumented worker translates to 21 percent of the total workforce in the construction industry.

In agriculture, it’s almost half – at 45 percent. In total, nearly 2.6 million undocumented immigrants make their homes in the State. Were those undocumented workers to suddenly disappear, the impact on the economy of the State of California would be compelling at the least, and devastating at its worst. Who would queue up to work in the fields picking the harvest, were almost half of the workers in the agriculture industry to suddenly vanish into thin air?

Little wonder the State is embracing, rather than attacking the undocumented worker with additional protections through proposed legislation.

As noted above, the State does not have authority over ICE, which is federally-regulated. However, the State retains certain rights on its own soil – especially if worksites employing undocumented workers are on private property.

Under AB 450 (if it becomes law in the State of California), employers would be required to ask for a warrant before they allow immigration enforcement agents onto the worksite. They would not be able to hand over any private information about workers, such as social security numbers, without a subpoena. 

In addition, said Grisel Ruiz, staff attorney of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) in comments appearing in New America Media, “[President Trump] does not have the resources to go after and deport all 11 some-odd million undocumented people, plus, in the US,” she said. “The likelihood of him picking up the random person, especially who’s never had contact with ICE, is actually quite low.” And even if they do get picked up by ICE, she said, “Many people will have a chance to fight their case.”

Every resident of the US, regardless of immigration status, enjoys protections under Constitutional Rights – such as the right to remain silent, to not allow agents into their home or work without a warrant signed by a judge, and to not sign anything before talking to an undocumented worker lawyer.

“We might not, in the State of California, be able to tell ICE what to do,” said Michael Young, legislative advocate with the California Labor Federation which, together with SEIU California, sponsored AB 450. “We can’t regulate federal immigration law. But we can regulate employer behavior. We can say that employers have an obligation to protect their workers and they have to take certain actions to make sure those rights are protected.”

AB 450 is still active and next moves to the State Senate Appropriations Committee. That’s expected to happen late next month…

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